HKEX chairman Laura Cha joins the board of Ant Group as the company’s business restructuring nears completion
Laura Cha, chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and a member of the Executive Council of the Hong Kong government, has joined the board of Ant Group as a new independent director, as the Alibaba’s fintech affiliate nears the end of a corporate restructuring aimed at easing government concerns.
Yang Xiaolei, an independent director of Hengfeng Bank and a former lawyer at an affiliate of Citic Group, has also joined as a new independent director at Ant Group.
After the appointment, Ant Group has four independent directors. Other independent directors are Hao Quan, a board member at PC giant Lenovo’s parent company Legend Holdings Corp, and Chinese economist Huang Yiping.
The last board restructuring happened in August 2020, when current Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong, former Alibaba CFO Maggie Wu and one of Alibaba’s 18 co-founder Peng Lei, quit the board ahead of Ant’s planned initial public offering.
The appointment of Laura Cha came a week after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang voiced support for the country’s tech firms to go public at home and aboard, signaling some of the scrutiny on the tech sector may ease as China’s economy faces pressure from a resurgence of Covid.
Ant Group’s USD34.5 billion IPO called off by regulators at the last minute after the People’s Bank of China, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, the Securities Regulatory Commission, and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange summoned Jack Ma and Ant Group’s chairman Eric Jing.
The meeting was driven by a Ma’s speech made at the Bund Summit in Shanghai, where he criticized Chinese banks for “operating with a pawnshop mentality”. Since then, Ant Group has undergone a restructuring aimed at easing government concerns.
As a part of the restructuring, Chinese regulators ordered Ant to integrate Jiebei and virtual credit card unit Huabei into a new consumer finance firm. Consumer credit data generated by Jiebei and Huawei have also been fully integrated into a government credit-reporting system overseen by China’s central bank.